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Weblog: At large in the greyhound world

A fiver for the M6 toll, but it was worth it in the end

A FIVER for the M6 toll?

These are the increasing costs [up from £4.70 March 1] that owners and trainers face in trying to have some sort of bearable life that avoids being stuck on the old M6  – I don’t know whether there is some sort of special discount that the Greyhound Board might be able to negotiate with this privately run operation. You get five per cent off through using a tag, but that costs £1 a month so you need to use it more than four times each month to make that worthwhile.

I used this always quiet road Thursday on the way to Ladbrokes Midland Puppy Derby at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton. This has become one of the best events of the year, and with the final taking place on Cheltenham’s eve of the Totesport Gold Cup, it will expect a bumper attendance that night. I am already booked into the Dudley Travelodge.

It was busy at Monmore Thursday too for the heats with a mixture of proper enthusiasts and total novices. Given the biting cold trackside, I naturally offered my coat to one scantily clad lady [there was quite a few]. It was not required, they breed them tough up here!

But Monmore is outside the promotion, so where were all the people coming from?

GM  Richard Brankley explained they prefer to target promos, rather than general ones that may reduce perceived value to more regular customers. He particularly likes the sporting leagues idea to get local clubs along [see].

Best spot outside was in the ring, which enjoys heat lamps mounted behind the bookmakers. We used to have braziers in my day at Wembley but for the punters, not the bookies! Maybe that would be frowned upon by the health and safety police? We’d increase spend per head too by cooking food on the hot coals. One person even remembered this when he saw me, recalling lovely hot eels.

There was zero chance of the track being watered given the sub-zero forecast. In my view they would have got away with watering – just – but mistakenly risked the Bags meeting the following afternoon. So the dry, salted track [where are my peanuts] was set to favour the inside, and did.

From that perspective, the most impressive run of the night came from Millies Hawk, owned by Martin White and trained by Carly Philpott.

Now Martin might be in South Africa on honeymoon, but that hasn’t stopped him getting excited about his unbeaten dog, a May 08 whelp by WestmeadHawk out of Droopys Millie. He hopes he might replace Wise Thought, and give his pace and a middle to wide course on the least helpful part of the track, he certainly looks the real deal.  

Another Martin, Martin Burt, was surrounded by whooping fans after heat four.

His Proud Patsy had run second, and the gang were hooting up about being in the semis.

It was the Cleobury Boys, a family based syndicate of ten who own the pup and hail from Cleobury Mortimer, which is somewhere near Ludlow. It sounds pretty.

Loudest of all was Kirk Williams, who said it was fantastic to be in the semis of such an important event. He said their pup had unusually missed the kick, but overcame an early baulk and given a more normal break, it’s dream on. Proud Patsy had come into Thursday’s race with six wins from 12 starts – well done to them all. And Mr Burt, put those fags out!

One hiccup, five of the six heats carried trophies, though not the last one. Steve Nash to the rescue, he took a pic of the proud connections standing with of Little Sensation and will send it on with his compliments.

It was a fascinating evening – see you back there Thursday. I also hope to get to Henlow Monday IF I can get away from the office early enough. If you can’t get excited by racing of such quality you must be sad or dead.